There is an old story about two dogs who walk into a room…. The first one enters, and comes out wagging his tail, wearing a big sloppy grin on his face from what he has seen in the room. The second dog enters, starts to growl, snarl and bare his teeth. He comes out of the door angry and snappy. What was in the room that provoked such a huge difference in these two dog’s reactions?
Mirrors. The first dog entered the room with a smile, saw a smiling dog who wagged their tail at him, and he was wagging his tail right back… The second dog entered growling, and surprise surprise, the dog he met was growling too.
This story always sticks in my mind – what you think, expect, anticipate, you’re going to get back, double time.
I spend a lot of time in airports and generally the poor staff there are harassed and complained at by irritated, tired travellers. They are often defensive, and if you go in angry and defensive, guess what you get back? If you go in laughing, happy, joking, it is generally what you get in return…
Why am I thinking about this now? A while ago, I was working a horse. I knew, well, not a lot about this horse. He was about 10, middle-aged, had done a fair amount, needed some work. So, I worked with him. Afterwards, I was chatting to the instructor who generally worked with the horse.
“He’s a sweet little guy, isn’t he?” I asked. Stood while I got organised, went off when I said go, gave me exactly what I asked for at each moment, tried hard to understand and please, made some nice changes in the way he was carrying himself. I was happy with the session; he and I left the arena both smiling.
“No”, the instructor replied, he’s difficult. He’s stubborn, mean and has a nasty buck. He doesn’t offer anything unless you push, and even then he is sulky and difficult….. He’s a bully who needs bullying.
I clarified, had I worked the right horse? The big grey in the paddock at the back? Well yes, that horse. The difficult one. No, I corrected, the big grey, the easy one…
What happened? Well, I believe that we were the two dogs entering the room. I think she found the gelding that her boss had bought and assigned to her to bring on when she was already too busy, with too much on her plate. I think she approached the horse with that attitude, so he responded in kind. Oh horse, I hate riding you… Oh human, I hate carrying you too… And then, I walked in, with no pressure, no time constraints, no boss, no agenda, and said ooooh a horse… A new friend… Hello Pretty Horse, will you be my friend, will you carry me, will you play and dance with me? And, the horse again responded in kind….. Ohhh, hello human, yes, let’s explore, let’s play, what shall we offer each other….
Horses are a mirror to us – walk into their stable with what you expect and 99% of the time, they’ll prove you right…
How will you approach your horse today?